Captain Miracle: Three Poems by Todd Mercer

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Calendar Senior, aka Captain Miracle

Of course he was a superhero to Jimmy when he was a little boy, the firefighter father. The old man disliked discussing the lives saved but the son knew it was several. The man’s hands pulled desperate people out windows of buildings too involved for salvage. Who faults a child for thinking their Dad stands ten feet tall? The old man turned out too strong to bend, too brave to preserve himself. The last rescue, the hinge he swiveled on: he emerged burning and his workmates converged to extinguish. End of the career. Of course he was invincible while Jimmy was small and needed a benevolent demigod to put his faith in. The old man in forced retirement disliked explaining the burn scars. He’d stop his car if he happened on a fire. ‘Til he passed in his sleep one night, he still wanted in.

The Fire Chief’s Son’s Sensory Memories: Glowing Leadership

The fire chief was on fire chiefly because he disliked delegating. He’s Can-Do, tends to charge into involved structures half-jacketed or bare-headed. The record of Lives Saved speaks volumes for him. But in the aftermath of such an accident the makings are plain. It’s rash, running toward a raging burn, even with a respirator. When he heard that call, he didn’t check the gear, he rushed in, this human torch we’re trying to revive.

Captain Miracle Speaks of Arson

Jimmy’s father comes home rolled in soot, from a restaurant fire. “The insurance overheated,” he says. To a naïve fourth grade kid, arson is a strange notion. Sometimes success demands people destroy their own place. The fastest exit from a tight spot can be a lighter and a can of gasoline. Captain Miracle cleans up, then catches up on sleep. He doesn’t mention this event again. Jimmy, on the contrary, cannot drop the thought despite the daily distractions. Kids are shielded from knowing how widespread self-destruction is. Arson’s one form, but he mulls all the varieties. He’s eleven but he spots signs in his neighbor, an uncle, a bully from school. Never a whiff of it off of Captain Miracle, saver of a couple dozen lives. Unless asked his favorite material to build houses from. Firefighters all say brick or stone, but Jimmy’s dad loves wood above the rest. He favors it even knowing the odds of a fire. Is that a form of self-destruction, but turned on its side? Does he promote wood to enhance his job security? No and no. There is another point. Jimmy’s seen him cut down a tree, debark it and run the sections through a board planer. He built furniture, including the seat he flopped heavy into after the insurance fire. Captain Miracle says even lumber and the boards in the walls carry on breathing. And that’s the thing, that there’s life in wood. Jimmy walks his town, guessing who is in despair or financial descent, and if they will torch their enterprise. He knows who will arrive to save what can be saved,

after someone drops a match to fix a heartsickness.

Todd Mercer was nominated for Best of the Net in 2018, and won the Kent County Dyer-Ives Poetry Prize. His chapbook Life-wish Maintenance is posted at Right Hand Pointing. Recent work appears in: A New Ulster, The Lake, and Mojave River Review.

“Calendar Senior, aka Captain Miracle” & “The Fire Chief’s Son’s Sensory Memories: Glowing Leadership” first appeared at The Magnolia Review.

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  • Captain Miracle
  • Jimmy series
  • Poetry
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